There are few things more synonymous with the city of Philadelphia than the hoagie. When Bryan Wilson, a Philadelphia native, moved to Chicago with his partner, Sonja Garelick, more than nine years ago, he never anticipated facing an impossible task when seeking true Philadelphia hoagie in such a food-centric city.
In 2020, when the craving for an authentic taste of home became too much, Wilson made it his mission to re-create the Philly hoagie, using the plethora of outstanding butchers, bakers and suppliers Chicago has to offer. Sensing the energy (and humor) with which Wilson approached the task, Garelick found a great opportunity to film and share the journey to her Instagram feed. The current Logan Square residents shared sandwiches with friends, who raved and demanded more and more.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Wilson and Garelick saw a unique opportunity to take what had become a passion and spread that joy to others during a difficult time. Beginning their first giveaway with about 20 sandwiches out of their small kitchen, then in Bucktown, the Hoagie Palace was born.
“For us it was more important to spread joy and meet people,” Garelick said. “Especially during such a difficult time where meeting people was nearly impossible. We connected with people in our neighborhood we otherwise never would have.”
Fast-forward to 2022, with Wilson and Garelick now living in Logan Square, using a professional kitchen, earning a feature in The Infatuation Chicago and selling 100-plus sandwiches per pop-up, and the duo said they can’t believe the whirlwind the Hoagie Palace journey has been.
“We never thought it would blow up like this,” Wilson said. “It’s cool to see that when you’re truly passionate about something, even as simple or seemingly insignificant as a hoagie, people will gravitate towards that passion.”
Hoagie Palace Gives Back
For the proprietors of Hoagie Palace, the main mission has always been to give back to the community that has become their adopted home. Wilson and Garelick have developed a deep connection to Chicago and Logan Square and now make sure to donate 50% of all profits from their hoagie drops to local charities they support.
We’ve included the full list of organizations below should readers feel inclined to support:
- Young Chicago Authors
- The Love Fridge
- Rebuild Foundation
- Brave Space Alliance
- Greater Chicago Food Depository
- Grocery Run Club
- People’s Music School
- Chicago Independent Venue League
- Chicago Filmmakers
- A Long Walk Home
- Urban Growers Collective
- My Block, My Hood, My City
- Hoop ‘Til It Hurts
- World Central Kitchen
“When we decided to do the drops more consistently, for us it was always about spreading the love (and mayo), giving back to the community and just having fun,” Wilson said. “The very first thing we decided was to give the money away.”
In total, through 12 drops (and counting), Hoagie Palace has raised nearly $5,000 for local charity organizations. In such a difficult and tumultuous time for many, Wilson and Garelick have used their platform as a means to lift up their community.
Connecting Chicago And Logan Square Through Food
While their charitable donations have become the focal point of Hoagie Palace, building connections in a time when that felt nearly impossible was how it all began.
“Maybe it started a little selfishly,” Wilson joked. “We really just wanted to make sandwiches and eat sandwiches, meet new people, and reconnect with people we hadn’t seen in such a long time.”
That desire to connect to others within the Chicago community has provided Wilson and Garelick with some memorable and unique experiences they said they never thought possible. When an old friend who now works at the acclaimed Alinea approached the pair about providing a staff meal for the restaurant, they got an inside look at one of the world’s most forward-thinking culinary destinations.
The opportunity to host a true in-person pop-up finally materialized when Jared Saul, who works at neighborhood spot Solemn Oath Brewery (2919 W. Armitage Ave.), connected with Wilson after following the Hoagie Palace proprietors’ journey to craft the perfect hoagie. As fate would have it, Wilson and Saul attended the same high school back in Philadelphia. They stayed in touch, and when the time was right, they launched a regular pop-up series last December, titling it with the couples’ signature humor: Oaths & Hoags.
“We had been looking forward to seeing our regulars’ faces for so long!” Garelick said. She and Wilson have received numerous gifts from their generous customers, including a vintage hoagie sign that clearly means a lot to them both.
Now customers can find Hoagie Palace at Solemn Oath every month at varying amounts for the foreseeable future, allowing Wilson and Garelick to potentially hold more frequent and one-off events in the future.
Bringing people and communities together through food is an age-old tradition that Hoagie Palace continues here in Logan. Every ingredient in the sandwiches is sourced from local Chicago companies, including Tempesta Market, 016 Deli and D’Amato’s Bakery. All the charities receiving donations are local, as well, and in-person pickups mean almost all of Hoagie Palace’s customers are essentially neighbors. The hoagie community is strong in Logan Square.
Join The Hoagie Palace Community
If these past two years are any indication, the future of Hoagie Palace is chock-full of positivity and charity. When asked about any potential sandwiches Wilson has his eyes on making, he couldn’t help rattling off many Philadelphia staples fans would be lucky to experience (stay tuned for updates).
If you’re looking to join the hoagie community the couple has built, make sure to follow them on Instagram and turn notifications on, as sandwiches often sell out in minutes rather than hours or days. Ordering details are below:
- “Hoagie drops” are announced on the Hoagie Palace Instagram page.
- Ordering opens to the public the Friday before the pop-up at 9 a.m.
- Place orders at hoagiepalace.com.
- Pop-ups take place Sunday afternoons from 12 p.m.-2 p.m., and guests are encouraged to hang out and connect.
Spreading love (and mayo) has always been the core mantra of Hoagie Palace. Through their charity donations and the passion they bring to the Logan Square community, they’ve done just that.
Featured image: Alisha Tova